NFC South: Jeff Faine

NFC South Preseason Stock Watch

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
7:22
AM ET
The Saints have played three preseason games and the Panthers, Buccaneers and Falcons each have played twice. Let’s take a look at whose stock is headed in which direction.

FALLING

Steve Spanuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Some people believe Spagnuolo is the logical choice to take over as the temporary head coach when Joe Vitt steps aside at the start of the season. But Spagnuolo’s defense didn’t do him any favors when it got torn up by the Jaguars on Friday night. The Saints may be better off turning things over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or offensive-line coach Aaron Kromer. That way Spagnuolo can focus solely on getting his defense ready.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Zuttah
AP Photo/Brian BlancoCenter Jeremy Zuttah, seen at June minicamp, stumbled in Tampa Bay's second preseason game.
Jeremy Zuttah, center, Buccaneers. The team made a big leap of faith when it signed Zuttah to a large contract, shifted him to center and ushered Jeff Faine out the door. Coach Greg Schiano had Zuttah at Rutgers and has faith in him. But that faith will be tested quickly if Zuttah doesn’t play better than he did Friday night against the Titans. Zuttah was fine in the opener and a young guy at a new position should show improvement every week.

Michael Turner, running back, Falcons. I know it’s only the preseason and offenses are holding back a lot of their tricks. But so far, Turner looks a step slow and no longer seems like a great fit in the Atlanta offense. I know Turner is one of those guys who needs carries to wear down a defense and really be effective. But the Falcons have insisted that Turner’s carries will be limited this season. I’m not sure he’ll have as big an impact if he’s not getting the carries.

RISING

Doug Martin, running back, Buccaneers. The injury to LeGarrette Blount is supposed to be minor, but he’s likely to miss some practice time and a preseason game or two. Blount had been sharing first-team work with the rookie. Martin’s going to get all the first-team snaps for the next bit and this could be when he really separates himself from Blount.

Akeem Dent, middle linebacker, Falcons. He’s expected to play in Friday night’s preseason game, after sitting out the last one with a concussion. The Falcons must have been happy with what Dent already was showing because they didn’t go out and sign a veteran when he went down. All indications are the Falcons still plan to use the second-year pro as their starting middle linebacker.

Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers. If you didn’t see what he did in one half Friday against the Dolphins, you owe it to yourself to go back and watch it. Newton moved the ball effortlessly. He’s got plenty of help at the skill positions and this Carolina offense is well on the way to being one of the league’s most entertaining.

NFC South evening update

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
5:33
PM ET
There hasn’t been a great deal of positive news out of the NFC South for the last month or so. Let’s break tradition and start our Friday evening roundup off with something bright and cheery.

If you’ve ever spent much time around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you probably know or have heard of Jill Hobbs. That’s largely because she’s been with the team forever -- almost. Hobbs, currently the team’s director of player benefits and alumni programs manager, will celebrate the 35th anniversary of her hiring on Sunday. The Buccaneers started the celebration Friday by calling all staff members together for a meeting. Then, the Bucs surprised Hobbs, who has worked in a variety of capacities throughout the years, with a celebration and some very nice gifts.
  • Updating a story we mentioned previously, it’s now official -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has agreed to buy the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA. The league took ownership of the team in 2010. Ironically, the announcement of the deal comes on the same day the Hornets host the Utah Jazz, the same franchise that left New Orleans in 1979.
  • Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is in the final four of the Madden 13 Cover Vote. Newton said he’s not worried about the so-called “Madden Curse’’ that has seen some players featured on the cover suffer injuries or have bad seasons. Newton said being on the cover is "what you make it."
  • Take a look at this Insider post Insider that features three underrated prospects that could be available early in the second round. The Buccaneers have a pick early in the second round and this list features a linebacker and running back -- two positions the Bucs could be considering at that time.
  • No surprise here. Safety Tanard Jackson, who was released by the Bucs earlier this week, will join the Washington Redskins. Former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris is the defensive backs coach in Washington.
  • Another player released by Tampa Bay this offseason is getting interest from the Tennessee Titans. That's center Jeff Faine.
  • Jeff Duncan reports the deal linebacker David Hawthorne signed with the Saints is very salary-cap friendly. That’s not surprising. Despite having limited cap room, general manager Mickey Loomis has done a nice job of overhauling the linebacker corps. He also has signed Curtis Lofton and Chris Chamberlain to cap-friendly deals.
  • For those tracking pre-draft visits, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe recently visited with the Carolina Panthers.

NFC South free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:00
AM ET
AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Atlanta Falcons

Key additions: LB Lofa Tatupu, G Vince Manuwai

Key losses: LB Curtis Lofton, WR/KR Eric Weems

Keeping their own: Much to the chagrin of their fans, the Falcons chose not to pursue defensive end Mario Williams or any other big-name free agent. Instead, they focused hard on keeping their own guys. That started before the season ended with tight end Tony Gonzalez re-signing and continued into free agency as the Falcons made it a point to lock up guys like receiver Harry Douglas, defensive end John Abraham and running back Jason Snelling. They also protected cornerback Brent Grimes with the franchise tag.

The only loss that really hurt was Lofton. The Falcons liked him, but new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan didn’t view him as a three-down player. The Falcons still made an effort to keep Lofton, but weren’t willing to pay big money. They brought in the veteran Tatupu, who could be a short-term answer. But there’s a hope within the organization that second-year pro Akeem Dent can step forward and win the job immediately because he’s the guy that’s going to end up there for the long term.

What’s next: Don’t completely rule out the addition of a minor or mid-level free agent or two, but the Falcons are focusing mainly on the draft. Even with Abraham back, they’re still looking to improve their pass rush and defensive ends could be in play. But the Falcons also could add a defensive tackle because Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry are coming off sub-par seasons. Some depth in the secondary and a kick returner also are possible targets.

Key additions: RB/FB Mike Tolbert, G Mike Pollak

Key losses: G Travelle Wharton

The splash came last year: The Panthers haven’t been very active in free agency. That’s largely because they made their big moves coming out of the lockout last year. They signed defensive end Charles Johnson, running back DeAngelo Williams, linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards and linebacker Thomas Davis to huge deals, and that’s why they had very little salary-cap room to work with this year.

But the Panthers didn’t really reap the rewards of some of those signings because Beason, Davis and Edwards all suffered early injuries. That took a toll on the defense. But all three of those guys are back and healthy and that should improve the defense immediately. Carolina developed an explosive offense last season and a strong defense could turn the Panthers into playoff contenders.

What’s next: The Panthers have very little cap room and don’t figure to make many more moves in free agency. They’re focused in on the draft and there needs have been narrowed. They’re likely to address cornerback and defensive tackle early in the draft. But don’t be surprised if they take a linebacker somewhere in the first three or four rounds, and it’s even possible they could target one in the first or second. Davis is coming off his torn ACL and the Panthers don’t know if he’ll be anything close to what he was before the injuries.

New Orleans Saints

Key additions: LB Curtis Lofton, DT Brodrick Bunkley, G Ben Grubbs

Key losses: G Carl Nicks, CB Tracy Porter

Miracle workers: Faced with an extremely tight salary-cap situation and some bizarre off-field events, it’s somewhat amazing the Saints were able to keep as much as they did. They didn’t want to lose Nicks, who might be the best guard in the league and is in his prime. But that’s the price they had to pay to make sure they kept quarterback Drew Brees and receiver Marques Colston, as well as adding players like Lofton, Grubbs and Bunkley.

The Brees situation remains complicated. He's still carrying the franchise tag. The Saints need to get him signed to a long-term deal quickly. Even more than ever, the Saints need Brees’ leadership abilities. They need him signed and happy before their offseason program starts April 16.

What’s next: With the possibility of multiple defensive players facing possible suspensions as a result of the bounty program, the Saints still could be looking to make significant moves. It will be hard to draft players that will make an instant impact because the Saints are without picks in the first two rounds. That means they might have to pull some more help out of free agency, even with limited cap space. They could use another pass-rusher to complement Will Smith. Even after adding Lofton and Bunkley, the Saints still could use depth at linebacker and defensive tackle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key additions: WR Vincent Jackson, G Carl Nicks, CB Eric Wright

Key losses: C Jeff Faine

Locking them up: Part of the reason the Bucs didn’t lose much of anything in free agency is because they’ve done a nice job of locking up some core players in recent years. They made it a point to make sure offensive linemen Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah never got close to leaving. Add Nicks to that group and the Bucs have a chance to have one of the league’s better offensive lines. As the season gets going, some other young players will be rewarded with contract extensions as they show they fit in coach Greg Schiano’s system.

What’s next: After making the initial splash, the Bucs said they’re done with free agency and are focused on the draft. That’s largely true, although the team is keeping a close eye on what remains on the market. This is a team that still is building and will still have needs after the draft. The Bucs have a big need at running back, where they have to find at least one player to complement LeGarrette Blount. The cornerback position could be an early target in the draft even after Ronde Barber decided to return for a 16th season. There also is some uncertainty about Aqib Talib's future. Even if he remains with the team, the Bucs need depth at the position. There also is uncertainty at linebacker and a need for depth at safety and tight end.

The flip side of Bucs' big moves

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
6:09
PM ET
No big surprise here. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released veteran center Jeff Faine.

The move came on the same day the Bucs signed guard Carl Nicks from New Orleans in a move that will change the dynamics of the offensive line. Nicks and Davin Joseph, both Pro Bowlers last season, will be the starting guards. Jeremy Zuttah, who recently signed a new contract, will move from guard to center to take Faine’s place.

Faine’s release frees up just under $6 million in salary-cap room for the Buccaneers. Faine had a solid four-year run in Tampa Bay, but his age (he'll turn 31 next month) was working against him. Faine started 15 games last season, but missed a total of 16 games in the previous two seasons with injuries.

"I appreciate the leadership Jeff has provided to our franchise, both on and off the field," general manager Mark Dominik. "He has been a true professional during his time here. We wish him all the best and are confident he will have continued success in the future."

Quick hits from the Buccaneers

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
2:03
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- I’ll be back in a bit with more analysis on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ big free-agent signings.

But, first, a few newsy tidbits on the Bucs.

  • General manager Mark Dominik said the signing of Eric Wright doesn’t change anything in relation to Ronde Barber. Dominik said the team still would like Barber back for a 16th season. The team has told that to Barber, who is an unrestricted free agent. Barber has asked for time to decide his future. Dominik said there still is time.
  • Although there are reports that the Bucs have signed quarterback Dan Orlovsky as a backup for Josh Freeman, Dominik said there is no agreement with Orlovsky. But he didn’t deny that there have been talks with his agent.
  • It sounds as if previous reports that center Jeff Faine will be released will come true. When asked if the signing of guard Carl Nicks means Jeremy Zuttah will move to center and what that means for Faine’s future, Dominik said he’d be discussing that situation with Faine’s agent later Wednesday. The Bucs would free up nearly $6 million in cap space by releasing Faine.
  • Although there have been reports and suggestions by the team that Mason Foster will move to outside linebacker, Dominik said, after reviewing film of his rookie year, the new coaching staff believes there is a chance Foster will stay at middle linebacker.
  • Wright, Nicks and Vincent Jackson posed with jerseys at the end of the news conference. For the record, Jackson had No. 83, Wright held No. 21 and Nicks had No. 77.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely to release veteran center Jeff Faine prior to the start of free agency Tuesday afternoon, according to this report by Stephen Holder.

Although Tampa Bay is roughly $43 million under the salary cap and doesn’t have to make any moves prior to free agency, there seems to be logic to this move.

Faine will turn 31 in April. Although he started 15 games last season, he dealt with injury problems in the seasons before that. Then there’s the financial aspect. Since the Bucs already have absorbed all the prorations on Faine’s contract, there would be no salary-cap implications if they release him. In fact, they instantly would clear up $5.925 million in cap room.

The Bucs recently signed Jeremy Zuttah, who played guard in the past, to a new contract. Zuttah played for new coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers and it appears the Bucs could be preparing to move him to center, a position he has sometimes played in the past.

With the extra cap room, the Bucs could do something dramatic and pursue New Orleans’ Carl Nicks, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent. If the Bucs landed Nicks, they could weaken the Saints.

Nicks and Tampa Bay right guard Davin Joseph both were on the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster last season. Put those two on the flanks of Zuttah and throw in Donald Penn, who is viewed as an above-average left tackle, and the Bucs could have the makings of a very good offensive line. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is far from a star, but his level of play could improve with better players around him.

NFC South programming notes

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
10:29
AM ET
We should have some very busy days ahead in the NFC South and across the league.

Free agency doesn’t officially start until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. But I’m expecting things to start happening as the day goes on Monday.

We’ll keep our eyes on the scandal involving the Saints' bounty program. Saints owner Tom Benson and coach Sean Payton reportedly were seen in New York over the weekend, according to the New Orleans television station Benson owns. That could be a sign the league is getting close to deciding on punishments.

We’re also likely to see some player releases and contract restructures. The Panthers are currently over the $120.6 million salary cap, and likely will be releasing players and restructuring contracts.

The Saints are barely under the salary cap, and likely will be making some moves if they want to re-sign any of their own free agents -- a group that includes guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston.

The Falcons have a bit more salary-cap room, but it looks like they might be preparing for a major splash (Mario Williams?). They already have restructured the contract of Dunta Robinson, and more moves could be on the way.

The Bucs are well under the cap, but veteran center Jeff Faine and tight end Kellen Winslow have high cap figures, and we don’t know yet if they fit into the plans of the new coaching staff. The Bucs also are waiting on a decision from cornerback Ronde Barber on if he wants to return for a 16th season. The Bucs have told Barber they would like him back, and he asked for a little time to make a decision.

Stay tuned.

Buccaneers: Who's on the hot seat?

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
11:00
AM ET
As we get closer to the start of free agency on March 13, we’re going to see some cap casualties around the NFL. Teams have to be under the cap by the start of free agency and that means we’ll see some big names getting released.

We’re going to take a look at possible cap casualties for each NFC South team and we’ll start with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs are in a unique position because they really don’t have to cut anyone to get under the cap. They already are projected to be about $68 million under the cap. They may not release any veterans, but I’m looking at their roster and a list of 2012 cap figures and I see at least two players who might be considered for release due to age and production.

Tight end Kellen Winslow is scheduled to count $4.8 million against the cap, and because his deal was front loaded, the Bucs could clear that whole $4.8 million if they released Winslow. He’ll turn 29 in July and he’s had chronic knee problems. Although Winslow did miss a fair amount of practice time last season, he did appear in all 16 games. He caught 75 passes, but only two of them went for touchdowns and he had some drops. With a new coaching staff coming in, it’s at least possible the Bucs could look to go in a different direction at tight end.

Center Jeff Faine will turn 31 in April. He’s missed at least one game with an injury each of the past three years. He’s scheduled to count $5.925 million against the cap. The Bucs would free up $5.725 million against the cap if they release Faine. They would have flexibility there because Jeremy Zuttah can play center as well as guard.

NFC South's $5 million club

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
2:36
PM ET
Time to take a look at the NFC South players that are scheduled to have the highest 2012 salary-cap figures.

Let’s be clear, these numbers are not what the players will actually make in 2012. These numbers simply reflect what they’ll count against the salary cap. And let’s also be clear that this list isn’t quite complete. You can bet Drew Brees will be on here once the quarterback signs a new deal with the New Orleans Saints. There also are some guys that probably will be cut or have their contracts restructured before the start of the year. Tampa Bay defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is a perfect example of that.

He’s scheduled to count $7.2 million. The Bucs can release him without any salary-cap hit. It’s a similar situation for Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who is scheduled to count $5.9 million. Davis is coming off his third torn ACL in two years and is due a big bonus in March. I seriously doubt he’ll get to collect that bonus.

Anyway, as it stands right now, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is the easy winner for the NFC South’s highest cap figure. He’s scheduled to count $13.5 million toward the cap ($11.5 million in base salary and another $2 million in prorated bonus money). Aside from Ryan, 30 other NFC South players are scheduled to count more than $5 million toward the salary cap. Let’s take a look:
  • Albert Haynesworth, Buccaneers, $7.2 million
  • Thomas Davis, Panthers, $5.9 million

Saluting NFC South's Iron Men

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
12:20
PM ET
In recent days, I’ve been sharing some details on 2011 playing time at various positions. We’ll continue to do that going forward and still have to touch on NFC South fullbacks and all the defensive positions.

But this is Iron Man Day, so we’re going to talk about offensive linemen. As a general rule, offensive linemen get a greater percentage of playing time than players at all the other positions. That’s part of the nature of the position -- teams want continuity.

In 2011, 42 NFL players took part in 100 percent of their teams offensive and defensive snaps. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, St. Louis linebacker James Laurinitis, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan all deserve special mention for taking part in 100 percent of their team’s snaps at positions where that’s pretty rare.

Aside from those six players, 36 others took part in all of their team’s offensive plays. All of them were offensive linemen and seven of them were from the NFC South.

Carolina guard Geoff Hangartner, Atlanta guard Justin Blalock, New Orleans guard Carl Nicks, Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph, Atlanta tackle Tyson Clabo, New Orleans tackle Jermon Bushrod and Tampa Bay tackle Donald Penn each took part in every one of their team’s offensive snaps.

Several other NFC South offensive linemen also came close to achieving that honor. Here’s a look at the other NFC South linemen that played more than 90 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.
Stephen Holder raises a very good question that will come into play now that a deal reportedly has been finalized to make Rutgers coach Greg Schiano the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- who will be his offensive coordinator?

That, without doubt, will be the most important hire Schiano will make for his staff. He’s a coach with a long defensive background and he needs an offensive coordinator with strong skills to straighten out an offense that wasn’t very good last season, but does have some talent.

The talent starts with quarterback Josh Freeman, who was impressive in 2010, but took a step back in 2011. The new offensive coordinator’s first order of business will be to get Freeman back on track. Same for receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount, who each slumped after strong rookie seasons in 2010.

Tampa Bay has some talent on the offensive line with guard Davin Joseph, center Jeff Faine and left tackle Donald Penn, but could use some other upgrades on the line. The Bucs also have tight end Kellen Winslow, but there are no guarantees he’ll remain in the team’s plans. Winslow also slumped in 2011, has chronic knee problems and is carrying a relatively hefty $4.8 million salary-cap figure for 2012. But the Bucs do have some built in protection if Winslow’s knee problems worsen. Instead of structuring his deal with a hefty base salary, the Bucs included an incentive clause where Winslow is scheduled to receive a bonus of $34,375 for every game he’s active.

Checking injuries that don't matter

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
4:19
PM ET
Usually, we use this time on Friday’s to tell you about the injuries that matter most across the NFC South. We’ll do that in a moment. But, first, let’s tell you about the injuries that don’t matter, because that’s kind of become a bigger story when it comes to the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who play each other on Sunday.

Payton
Payton
New Orleans coach Sean Payton admitted the Saints called the NFL to ask why Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman wasn’t on the injury report after he was spotted with something on his right thumb in an interview with NFL Network. The league called the Buccaneers, who went ahead and put Freeman and safety Tanard Jackson on the injury report Thursday.

Soon after the Bucs did that, the Saints went ahead and added right tackle Zach Strief to their injury report. All three remained on Friday’s injury report. They all practiced fully Friday.

Here’s the deal: Freeman, Jackson and Strief are going to play Sunday. The Saints and Bucs were just involved in what Payton called a bit of “gamesmanship’’.

Beyond the games, there are some real injury issues on the reports for the Saints and the Bucs. The Saints declared running back Mark Ingram (heel) out for the second straight game. Presumably, they’ll use the backfield rotation of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory.

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) has not practiced all week. He’s listed as questionable and Payton said Vilma will be a game-time decision.

The Bucs have ruled out guard/center Jeremy Zuttah (knee), but the good news is center Jeff Faine (biceps) is probable. The Bucs also ruled out reserve defensive tackle Frank Okam (calf).

Atlanta’s injury report is a lot less complicated. Left tackle Sam Baker is out and the team previously said he’ll miss three or four games. Everyone else is listed as probable.

The Carolina Panthers have a bye, so they don't have an injury report.

Buccaneers get banged up in London

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
10:41
AM ET
About the only good thing that can be said about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Sunday’s loss to Chicago in London is that their bye week is coming at an ideal time.

The Bucs entered the game banged up with running back LeGarrette Blount (knee), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) and center Jeff Faine (biceps) not dressing. Things got even worse once the game started.

Running back Earnest Graham (ankle) and fullback Erik Lorig (shoulder) quickly suffered injuries. The Bucs had to go through much of the game with Kregg Lumpkin as their only healthy back.

Depending on the extent of the injury to Graham and how Blount’s recovery is progressing, the Bucs may have to acquire another running back. That’s probably something Tampa Bay should have done in the offseason. I know the Bucs drafted Allen Bradford, but he was signed off the practice squad by Seattle before making any sort of impact.

Tiki Barber is still out there, but nothing is going to happen on that front. If anything, the Bucs will pluck a young running back off someone’s practice squad or sign a back that currently is not on a roster.

The defense also got banged up in London. Rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster left with an ankle injury and has been bothered by a similar problem much of the season. Safety Tanard Jackson also left the game with a hamstring injury. Jeremy Zuttah, who started for Faine at center, suffered an ankle injury.

The bye week should be a quiet time for most players, but the injured guys will be spending lots of time with the trainers. The busiest people in the building might be the personnel guys because it looks like the Bucs will have to make some roster moves.

The injuries that matter most

October, 21, 2011
10/21/11
4:26
PM ET
The final Friday injury reports are out. That means it’s time to check in on the NFC South’s most significant injuries.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis and is listed as probable. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) practiced on a limited basis and is listed as questionable.

Although the injury report lists running back LeGarrette Blount as doubtful, coach Raheem Morris already said Blount will not play Sunday. The injury report also lists center Jeff Faine (biceps) as out. Ted Larsen likely will start in his place. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) did not practice and is listed as questionable.

Carolina linebacker Omar Gaither (knee) and safety Jordan Pugh (concussion) are listed as doubtful. Tight end Greg Olsen (toe) is probable and participated fully in practice.

Atlanta receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) is listed as doubtful and it’s likely he’ll miss his second straight game because the Falcons have a bye after the Detroit game. Defensive end John Abraham (groin) is questionable, but practiced on a limited basis. The Falcons also are banged up on the offensive line. Left tackle Sam Baker (back), center Todd McClure (knee) and right guard Garrett Reynolds (ankle) are all questionable, but all three were able to practice on a limited basis.
The Wednesday injury reports are out, so let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the NFC South.

Atlanta defensive end John Abraham (groin), receiver Julio Jones (hamstring), left tackle Sam Baker (back) and center Todd McClure (knee) sat out Wednesday’s practice.

Carolina tight end Greg Olsen (toe) missed practice. Safety Jordan Pugh and linebacker Thomas Williams also sat out due to concussions.

New Orleans tight end David Thomas, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, returned to practice for the first time on a limited basis. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) and right tackle Zach Strief (knee) missed practice.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, returned to practice on a limited basis. Running back LeGarrette Blount (knee), center Jeff Faine (biceps), defensive end Michael Bennett (groin) and linebacker Mason Foster (ankle) did not practice.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD